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First Patriarch
Born Born::Abib 2008 AM, Ur, Mesopotamia
Died Died::Abib 2183 AM, Canaan
Venerated in Christianity
Baha'i Faith
Feast October 9 - Roman Catholicism

Abraham (Hebrew: אברהם, ʼAḇrāhām; Greek: Ἀβραάμ, Abraʼām; Arabic: ابراهيم, Ibrāhīm; "Name means::father of a multitude") or Abram (Hebrew: אברם, ʼAḇrām; Greek: Αβραμ, Abrām; "Name means::exalted father") (Born::Abib 2008 AMDied::Abib 2183 AM) was the son of Terah (Genesis 11:27 ) and the founding patriarch of the Israelites, Ishmaelites (Arabs), Midianites, and several other races.[1] The three Abrahamic religionsChristianity, Judaism, and Islam—recognize him as a prophet and greatly respect him for his outstanding faith in God.[2]

The details of his life are recorded in Genesis 11:26–25:10.

Abraham's Life

"Abraham Journeying into the Land of Canaan" by Gustave Doré

Abraham, originally called Abram until God changed his name in a covenant when Abraham was 99 years old,[3] was born in Ur of the Chaldees in Mesopotamia. His father was Terah, and he had two elder brothers named Haran and Nahor. His wife was Sarah (who actually was his niece and daughter of Haran), and his sons were Isaac and Ishmael.

God told him to leave his country and journey to a new land, where he would become the founder of a new nation. Abraham obeyed God, and when he was 75 years old he journeyed with his wife Sarah (Sarai), his nephew Lot, and many others to the land of Canaan between Syria and Egypt. At each stop along the way he set up an altar and tent-shrine.

The date of his departure is left home::15 Abib 2083 AM, as per the following verses:

"Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt."Exodus 12:40-41

The date of the Exodus was 15 Abib 2513 AM; therefore the date of Abram's departure from Haran is precisely 430 years earlier. (See below).

In Canaan, God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land from the Nile to the river Euphrates and have it for ever. Although Sarah was childless, and apart from God's promise she would have no reason to believe that she would ever have children, Abraham trusted God to fulfill His promise to give them children.[4]

Visit to Egypt

Early in Abraham's journey, famine struck the land of Canaan. Abraham went to Egypt to escape its effects. There, Abraham instructed Sarah to say that she was his sister; which was not quite true, because Sarah was Abraham's niece. The then-reigning Pharaoh took Sarah, who was quite attractive despite her advanced age, into the palace. God, however, directly warned Pharaoh against being intimate with Sarah, who was another man's wife. Pharaoh returned Sarah to Abraham and politely asked Abraham to leave Egypt, which he did. However, Abraham left Egypt with many gifts and presents. Among these was a handmaid named Hagar.[5]

Family Strife

At first, Abraham was accompanied by his nephew, Lot, who had a household comparable in size to that of Abraham, with livestock to match. Inevitably, their wranglers fought over the scarce resources of the region. So Abraham and Lot agreed to separate. Lot decided to live in the plains of the Valley of Siddim (the Dead Sea), while Abraham stayed in the hill country. This happened in the spring of 2084 AM.[6]

Eight years after that, Lot fell prisoner to defeated::Chedorlaomer in the fought in::War of the Ten Kings. Abraham heard about Lot's capture from an escapee from Sodom, where Lot had gone to live. Abraham armed 318 men of his household, called on three local Amorite confederates to help him, and gave chase. He successfully rescued Lot and recaptured all the plunder that Chedorlaomer had taken. Abraham took no spoil beyond his own troops' rations.[7] Scripture does not record that Abraham would ever see Lot again.

Abraham then made what some have considered a mistake. Not willing to believe that a seventy-five-year-old woman (Sarah's age at the time) could conceive, Abraham allowed Sarah to prevail upon him to accept Hagar as her surrogate. By her he had a son, Ishmael ("God hears"). Ishmael was not, however, the son that God had promised that Abraham and Sarah would have.

The Covenant

Abraham and the Three Angels by Gustave Doré.

God established his covenant with Abraham on Covenant::Abib 2107 AM. On that occasion God told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son, and that the descendants of that son would be too numerous to count.[8] And not only was Abraham to be the father of multitudes of physical descendants, he would also be the spiritual father of all who believe in the true God.

But God also warned Abraham that the Hebrews would sojourn in a land that was not theirs, that some group of persons, identified only as "they," would "afflict" them, and that after a span of four hundred years, God would see that the Hebrew people would despoil those who had ill used them.

In this same year came the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham interceded for Sodom, for Lot's sake. Instead of forbearing to destroy the city, God sent two angels to make sure that Lot and his household would leave Sodom. (They barely escaped in time, and Lot's wife, because she looked back, did not survive.)

Abraham did have his son, Isaac ("he shall laugh"), by his wife Sarah when he was age of parenthood::100 years old and Sarah 90 years old.

The Expulsion of Ishmael

When Isaac was five years old, Abraham held a feast in his honor. Ishmael, who was nineteen, mocked Isaac. This prompted Sarah to demand that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away, and he did.

Many commentators, among them James Ussher, Larry Pierce, and Floyd Nolen Jones, date the four hundred years' persecution of the Hebrew people from this incident. But other commentators point out that the Ishmaelites were not the Egyptians, nor did any systematic persecution begin until after the Israelites had all entered Egypt.

Abraham sacrificing Isaac, by Rembrandt 1635

Abraham's Faith

As proof of Abraham’s faith, God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac at Moriah.[9] Abraham showed his willingness to comply, even though Isaac seemed to be the only means through which God could fulfill His promises.

Abraham did not have to complete Isaac’s sacrifice, because God substituted a ram at the last minute and ordered Abraham to spare Isaac’s life. Although God knew what Abraham would do, God evidently wanted to prove to all, even to Abraham, that Abraham loved God supremely and that his faith in God’s Word was unwavering. This affirmed God’s choice of Abraham as the father of the chosen nation.

Abraham's Character

Abraham was a man with many admirable characteristics. He was a righteous man, wholeheartedly committed to God. He was a man of peace, compassionate when working to persuade God to spare the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, hospitable in welcoming three visiting angels, and quick to act when rescuing Lot and his family from attackers.

Although he was a man of great spiritual depth, he also had common human weaknesses. To save his life, he twice passed off Sarah as his sister to foreign kings, allowing them to choose her for their harems.

Final Years

Sarah died at the age of 127, and Abraham bought a cave at Machpelah in which to bury her. As his own death drew near he made his servant Eliezer swear that he would find a wife for Isaac from his kinfolk near Haran. He did, and Isaac married Rebekah.

Also in Abraham’s advancing years he married husband of::Keturah, whose sons became the ancestors of the tribes of Dedan and Midian. After he gave all he had to Isaac, and gifts to his other sons, Abraham died, having lived for life span::175 years. Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave at Machpelah in which Sarah lay.


Main Article: Abrahamic religion

Jews trace their lineage to Abraham through his son Isaac. One of the core tenets of the Jewish faith is that the Hebrews are the "chosen people of God" following God's covenants with Abraham.

Christians also trace their faith back to Abraham through Isaac, via Jesus and his original followers, who were Israelites.

Abraham's descendant Midian is also tied to the Hebrew faith through Moses, whose wife, Zipporah, was a Midianite.

Arab Muslims trace their lineage back to Abraham (known as Ibrahim) through his son Ishmael.


Some scholars suggest that Abraham and the other Patriarchs were not real figures, but rather literary compositions and religious conflations. Historian Paul Johnson has offered a likely alternative to these beliefs in his book, ”A History of the Jews”. He states that, although “the Book of Genesis and related Biblical passages are the only evidence that he existed,” there are several corroborative archaeological finds that support the cultural norms of time period making “the substance of this Biblical account” history.[10] Abraham (then Abram) traveled from Ur, first to Haran, then throughout Canaan, and ending at Hebron (where he was buried at the Cave of Machpelah); real cities illuminated by the findings of Leonard Woolley, William F. Albright, Nelson Glueck, Samantha Kenyon, et. al.[11] Johnson agrees with R. K. Harrison’s calculations which place the time period of Abraham “between Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi, the outside limits being 2100-1550 BC” (Middle Bronze Age).[12] He states that the king-list of Genesis is “not to be despised” anymore than other king-lists of antiquity, such as the pharaoh-list by Manetho and king-list by Berossus. Johnson also states that the ten-name anti-diluvian genealogy in Genesis (as opposed to the earliest king-list containing eight names) corresponds to Berossus’ list; a “link between the two is perhaps Abraham, who brought the tradition with him.”[13]

Ancient customs as seen through the Ebla, Nuzi, and Mari tablets support this claim. For example, the “Ebla and Mari tablets contain administrative and legal documents referring to people with patriarchal-type names such as Abram, Jacob, Leah, Laban and Ishmael” and there are “also suggestive expressions and loan-words related to Hebrew.”[14] The Nuzi tablets offer even more direct cultural parallels. One tablet “produces exact parallels” to Abraham taking Hagar as a child-bearing concubine because of Sarah’s barrenness (Genesis 16). Other Nuzi tablets attest Esau’s sale of his birthright and the binding power of Isaac’s oral contract “in the form of a death-bed blessing” in Genesis 27.[15] Another Nuzi parallel shows that “family gods were like title-deeds, with symbolic legal value” thus explaining why Rachel stole Laban’s idols.[16] All of these show to be authorized legal proceedings of marriage and family contracts at the time. Tablets from Mari corroborate the more strange practice of slaughtering animals to confirm a covenant; attesting Abraham’s covenant with God seen in Genesis 15:9-10.[17]

Johnson believes that Abraham is best understood in the context of being a tribal leader among the Habiru, “difficult and destructive non-city-dwellers” who moved from “place to place” living in agreement (or at war with) governing authorities.[18] Abraham, like the Habiru, had the power to purchase freehold land in Hebron with the consent of the community while being an alien. The land he purchased in Genesis 23:20 “was owned by a dignitary called Ephron the Hittite, a West Semite and Habiru of Hittite origin.[19] In light of this view, some patriarchal events are more sensible. For example, tablets show that a “wife with the legal status of a sister commanded more protection than an ordinary wife,” highlighting Abimelech’s fear in Genesis 20.[20] Like the Habiru, Abraham also deals with major authorities, such as Egypt in Genesis 12 and the King of Sodom in Genesis 14. Although settlement deals were contentious and legalistic, as seen in Genesis 21:22-31, “it was sometimes in the interests of the settled kings to tolerate the Habiru, as a source of mercenaries.”[21] Though if the dwelling tribe grew too large and powerful, “the local king had to tell them to move on, or risk being overwhelmed himself” as seen with Abimelech and Isaac in Genesis 26:16. In Johnson’s view, all of these dealings, “problems of immigration, of water-well and contracts and birthrights … testifies to the Bible’s great antiquity and authenticity.”[22]


Main Article: Biblical chronology dispute
Abraham's life story poses two different problems in biblical chronology. The first is whether Abraham was born early, or late, in the life of his father Terah. The age of Terah when Abraham was born is a chronological anchor for the year of Terah's birth. Many commentators believe that Abraham was born when Terah was 70 years old, on the basis of this verse:

"After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran."Genesis 11:26

However, the Bible describes Abraham's departure from Haran after the death of his father.[8][23] In addition, Stephen clearly stated to the Sanhedrin that Abraham left Haran after his father died.[24]

The second problem concerns the length of the Sojourn in Egypt. This period serves as an anchor for Abraham's departure from Haran. The book of Exodus tells us that

"Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years."Exodus 12:40

Interestingly, the Samaritan Pentateuch adds the phrase "and Canaan" after the name "Egypt" in the above verse. However, God seems to say to Abraham that the Egyptians would afflict the Israelites for four hundred years:

"And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years ..."Genesis 15:13

Two problems appear above:

  1. Does the 430 years refer to the length of time that the Hebrews spent in Egypt, or to the total span of time from Abraham's entry into Canaan to the Exodus of Israel?
  2. When does the 400 years begin and end?
With regard to the 430 years, Paul provides an answer:

"And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot dis-annul, that it should make the promise of none effect."Galatians 3:17

The law referred to above is the Ten Commandments, which were given in the same year as the Exodus. Therefore the "covenant" refers to the departure.

In addition, Genesis tells us that four generations would elapse during the actual time in Egypt.[25] Those generations are the lives of Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses, which are a direct line of descent. Exodus gives the lengths of the lives of each of these men, and furthermore states that Amram married his own aunt (1 Chronicles also attests to this). If the Israelites spent 430 years living in Egypt, this line of descent would be impossible.

With regard to the 400 years, Jones cites E. W. Bullinger's Companion Bible, which points out that the text of Genesis 15:13 is a curious type of text called an introversion. It states four facts, of which the first and last are related to one another, and the second and third are related to one another, though not to the other two. Thus the passage should read:

  • Thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs,
    • and shall serve them;
    • and they shall afflict them
  • four hundred years.

The two facts listed in the indented text are a parenthetical note in the broader context of a four-hundred-year period that begins when Isaac was weaned and ends with the Exodus.[26]


son of::Terah
brother of::Haran
brother of::Nahor
husband of::Sarah
common-law husband of::Hagar
father of::Isaac
father of::Ishmael
grandfather of::Esau
grandfather of::Jacob


  1. The Bible as history By Werner Keller. Page 67
  2. Hebrews 11:8-12
  3. Genesis 17:5
  4. James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 72-75, 77-80, 82-83
  5. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 74
  6. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 75
  7. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 77
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 82
  9. Genesis 22
  10. Johnson, p10
  11. Ibid., p9-12
  12. Ibid., p11 c.f. R. K. Harrison, ‘Introduction to the New Testament’ (London 1970)
  13. Ibid., p11
  14. Ibid., p12 c.f. A. Malamat, ‘King Lists of the Old Babylonian Period and Biblical Genealogies’, ‘Journal of the American Oriental Society’ 88 (1968); ‘Northern Canaan and the Mari Texts’, in J. A. Sanders (ed.), ‘Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century’ (Garden City, NY 1970), 167-77; and “Mari,” ‘Biblical Archaeologist’, 34 (1971).
  15. Ibid., p13
  16. Ibid., p13 The Nuzi tablet reads: “[The adoption tablet of Nashwi, son of Arshenni.] He adopted Wullu, son of Pohishenni. … When Nashwi dies, Wullu shall be heir. Should Nashwi beget a son, he shall divide equally with Wullu, but Nashwi’s son shall take Nashwi’s gods. But if there be no son of Nashwi then Wullu shall take Nashwi’s gods. And Nashwi has given his daughter Nuhuya as wife to Wullu. And if Wullu takes another wife he forfeits Nashwi’s land and buildings.”
  17. Ibid., p13 c.f. C. H Gordon, “Abraham of Ur”, in D. Winton Thomas (ed.), ‘Hebrew and Semitic Studies Presented to G. R. Driver (Oxford 1962), 77-84; E. A. Speiser, Genesis, ‘Anchor Bible’ (Garden City, NY 1964). See also M. Grunberg, “Another Look at Rachel’s Theft of the Terraphin”, ‘Journal of Biblical Literature’ 81 (1962).
  18. Ibid., p13
  19. Ibid., p5 c.f. E. Sarna, ‘Understanding Genesis’ (London 1967), 168ff.
  20. Ibid., p14 c.f. E. A. Speiser, “The Biblical Idea of History in its Common Near Eastern Setting”, in Judah Goldin (ed.), ‘The Jewish Experience’ (Yale 1976).
  21. Ibid., p14
  22. Ibid., p15
  23. Jones, Floyd N. The Chronology of the Old Testament, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004 (ISBN 9780890514160), pp. 25, 259 and Charts 1 and 6
  24. Acts 7:4
  25. Genesis 15:16 (KJV)
  26. Jones, op. cit., pp. 53-61 and Charts 3, 3A, and 3B.


Johnson, Paul (1988, 2009). A History of the Jews. 10 East 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10022: Weidenfeld & Nicolson in Great Britain and Harper & Row in the United States. ISBN 0061828092 (88), 0060915331 (09).